The tales of a city is a trope familiar from popular culture, but also from scholarship. Using the British city of Milton Keynes as example, anthropologist Ruth Finnegan (1998) has shown that the perceptions of cities and experiences of city-life is mediated through culturally circulated stories. However, the stories told about a city are not innocent, and impact the life of the people living there.

The popular memory approach—worked out by the Popular Memory Group at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies in Birmingham—is one way to study narratives as processes of power. According to this approach, dominance, subordination, as well as resistance arise from the competition between narratives. No actor is in position to fully control how a given social formation is made meaningful through narration, but rather concessions have to be made. At times certain narratives becomes especially persuasive, resulting in the situation that other narratives have to be adjusted in order to be compelling. However, while one narrative might dominate the general public, alternative stories can be made out and kept alive in particular publics. The popular memory approach is developed for the study of the social production of national history, and needs to be made spatially aware and adjusted to the scale of a city.

Since the city of Malmö could be characterized as a quite ordinary city with an unusual amount of narrative depictions, it could be used as a good case for the continual development of narrative approaches to the study of cities and city-life.